City sending three to state golf

In mid-April, Free State High sophomore Jack Flynn shot an 84 at the Topeka Country Club, taking 20th place in the tournament.

He hopes his next round on the Topeka CC course is even better as he opens at hole 10 at 10:30 a.m. today in the Class 6A boys golf state tournament.

Flynn is one of three city golfers at the state tournament, along with FSHS freshman Jack Junge and Lawrence High senior Narito Mendez.

“I played here four or five times,” Flynn said. “I think I know this course pretty well. I’m excited.”

Flynn said he learned the trouble spots on the course, and if he can hit well with his driver, he’s confident he can turn in a solid round. Of course, last year’s state tournament experience should help as well.

Junge, however, doesn’t wish to remember much about the last time he played at Topeka CC. He shot a 91. He will tee off right after Flynn on hole 10 at 10:50 a.m.

“I remember I played absolutely terrible,” Junge said. “I came in here not really knowing how to play the course, not knowing how to hit most of my shots. But now I think I have a pretty good feel of how to hit my shots.”

What will be the key for the Free State golfers?

“Putting, I think, for these two guys in particular,” FSHS coach Matt Gudenkauf said. “They’re pretty good about staying out of trouble, which this course has a lot of that. But at the same time, they’ve struggled with the putter. So if they have good days putting, they’ll have a good day.”

Lawrence’s Mendez has relaxed since qualifying for the state tournament on May 19, only golfing for the second time in a week during his practice round Saturday.

Mendez tied for 40th place at last year’s state tournament and has played at Topeka CC just once in his high school career, which was earlier this season.

“It’s kind of a new course for me,” said Mendez, who will tee off at 9:10 a.m. on hole 10. “It’s kind of scary, but I don’t think a lot of the kids have played here before, so I’m with the majority.”

Mendez has played well lately, taking sixth place at the Lawrence Invitational and fourth at regionals over the past two weeks. He said the difference is his short game, making par even when his approaches don’t immediately hit the green.

“I think the course is playing pretty tough, so I’m just going to come out here and do as well as I can,” Mendez said. “I don’t really have a set score in mind.”

Free State’s two golfers haven’t always been consistent, as Flynn and Junge are capable of playing their way into title contention or struggling. Whether they play well or not, it should be a big help to the Firebirds’ golf program.

“I think it’s awesome they’re here and getting this experience,” Gudenkauf said. “It’s going to bode big-time for us in a year or two.”